Review: ‘Black Mass’ Doesn’t Focus on Whitey Bulger That Much







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Posted September 22, 2015 by

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“Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This has been a saying since long before I was born and it still rings true today. Another way to say it would be, “Don’t judge a movie based on its trailer”. A trailer can be one of the most misleading things in entertainment, and the one for ‘Black Mass’ is no different. Knowing the story of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, thanks to the documentary ‘Whitey: The United States Of America V. James J. Bulger‘, I knew he was an evil dude. Pure evil. Not just mean, a criminal, or known for having a temper; James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is one of the most dangerous people to have ever walked the earth. If you take that real person in history and then tell me that Johnny Depp is playing him in a movie, I’m all in. Then you show me a trailer where he’s killing people, being overly creepy at a dinner table when all he’s doing is asking about seasoning on a steak, and giving him crystal clear contacts that make him appear other-worldly, I’m going to be so far in it’s not even funny. So imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch the film and it’s all about the F.B.I. agent that covered for him.


Reports were that not only was the movie great, but that it was so honest even Bulger himself hated it. The way it was told to me, he is sitting in his cell just seething at the fact that this movie got made. And now I see why. This film isn’t about how terrible he was. I mean, they talk about it, kind of, but it actually depicts him as more of an F.B.I. informant than it does a respect-demanding gang leader. If you get this talented of a cast assembled, you would think it would be more than just a police drama, but it isn’t. It teases the viewer that something sinister is happening behind the scenes — that Bulger is whacking guys left-and-right — but it’s more about how Agent John Connolly (a friend to Bulger since their youth) did his best to inform Bulger who was ratting on him and covering for Bulger whenever the feds got too close to what he was up to.

I guess I should say this now: this film isn’t bad. This film is actually pretty good. It’s just that the trailer was so misleading that I really thought I would be reviewing a completely different movie. Much like the first time I saw “Killing Them Softly“, I left the theater disappointed because I had higher expectations for what I was actually given. Saying that, however, I loved ‘Killing Them Softly’ upon viewing it a second time and I suspect I’ll feel the same about ‘Black Mass’.

This is not a bad review. This is a warning. If you want to get the dirt on James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, watch the aforementioned documentary (the last time I looked, it’s on Netflix). If you want to see the inner workings of how he got away with all of the crime that you won’t really see a lot of in the movie, watch ‘Black Mass’. Johnny Depp was really good as Bulger. I just would have liked to see a lot more of him.





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